Tuesday Ten: Copycat Songs

By | October 21, 2014 at 3:00 PM

With the millions of songs out there, a few will inevitably end up sounding similar to one another–BUT,  sometimes, the resemblance is  a little too close for comfort. Whether or not it seems like an innocent coincidence or an obvious case of “jam” sticky fingers, it’s always interesting to explore the connections between these copycat songs.  For this week’s Ten, our writers put some of  the biggest culprits in a lineup  and  compared them against the originals.  You make the call: inspiration or sticky fingers?

Barenaked Ladies – For You
Hedley – Heaven In Our Headlights

At first, Hedley’s latest single “Heaven In Our Headlights” bears little resemblance to “For You” by fellow Canadians the Barenaked Ladies. The latter is a mellow folk song that starts with a lone acoustic guitar and gentle vocals, the arrangement gradually growing to include mandolin, light drum work, and a thumping kick drum; meanwhile, the former has a more upbeat feel and opens with bright piano backing vocalist Jacob Hoggard through the first verse and chorus. But wait…that chorus melody sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Your ears aren’t quite certain of it at first, but then the full band kicks in–bursting into acoustic guitar, mandolin, and a four-on-the-floor feel that echoes the pulse of “For You”. And with the nearly-identical melody being sung over that arrangement, the similarities between the two choruses are undeniable. There are even a few particularly bizarre coincidences, like that the second line of the chorus in both songs ends with the word “care” and the first word of the third line starts with “if” (though technically, Hedley manage to sandwich “cause” between the two). Luckily for Hedley, there’s a major generational gap between their audience and the Barenaked Ladies’, so the only other people who will probably ever notice are their fans’ parents. (Eleanor Grace)

Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark
We The Kings – I Like It

When Fall Out Boy announced their return last year, the world rejoiced…and put on their war paint. Lead single “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” was an anthem that made you want to grab your leather jacket, snap your fingers in time to the beat of the drums, and set things on fire. Their homecoming echoed throughout the land of pop punk, but seemed to affect one band more creatively than anyone else. When We The Kings dropped their new single “I Like It” earlier this year, something sounded incredibly familiar…and not because it has the marks of a typical WTK song. The beginning bears a remarkable resemblance to “My Songs Know”, from the echoing drumbeat to the synthy overlay. And then there’s the repetitive “oh woahs” that we’ve already been singing for a year and a half. We The Kings have even strayed from their sugary pop choruses to try and embrace a bigger, more anthemic style… much like rock and roll’s saviours, Fall Out Boy. While they might fall short of the huge sound FOB achieve with ease, their love–or rather, like–song is still a good effort from the Florida quintet, if a little too on the nose. Ironically, the title of the song doesn’t help their case of pleading originality–maybe they liked FOB’s glorious comeback a little too much. But who can blame them? (Alex Bear)

Fall Out Boy – Sugar, We’re Going Down
5 Seconds Of Summer – Social Casualty

They’re a band that have been stirring quite the controversy in the world of pop rock lately: 5 Seconds Of Summer. Whether you think that they fit in the genre or not, it would be impossible to deny that much of their music feels like Fall Out Boy’s earlier work. Take “Social Casualty,” for example. That guitar sound familiar? When I first heard the opening riffs, I must admit I was tempted to belt out, “Am I more than you bargained for yet?”–the first line to “Sugar We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy. With the guitar riff being the centerpiece of both songs, everything else seems to revolve around it. Heavy use of the bass drum are also similarities in both songs…perhaps because the beat pairs with the riff like peanut butter and jelly. Though the resemblance stops there, it goes without saying that Fall Out Boy have yet again been an influence to an up-and-coming band. And if you find yourself wanting to sing Fall Out Boy lyrics to 5 Seconds Of Summer instrumentals, it’s okay–you’re not alone. (Emily Yee)

Four Year Strong – It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now
Major League – I Don’t Like You, Whatsoever

If you started a pop punk band circa 2007-2010, chances are you shamelessly ripped off Four Year Strong at some juncture. With the 07 release of Rise Or Die Trying, FYS established a precedent–a formula as to how every pop punk song should sound: intro breakdown, generic verse, big chorus with gang vocals, second verse, end breakdown, and optional bridge. Major League didn’t even try to be original with “I Don’t Like You Whatsoever.” But hey, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Although the ML song is about one key lower in pitch, the intro is practically identical, the verses and chorus are close enough, and a breakdown is a breakdown. From the beginning “swoosh” to the percussive guitar, to the heavy chugs, the intro is virtually the same. The verses take on an uncanny form, citing similar lyric themes–from ML’s “It’s getting harder to keep my head afloat” to FYS’s “Since your head’s in the clouds,” along with ML’s “Tangled lines” and FYS’s “Tangled up in lights.” Sure, these are minute similarities, but the song also mimics the larger than life gang vocals in the chorus and the tacky easycore breakdown, which is just a repetition of the intro (for both songs). The vocal melodies are almost identical, and even the song titles have a strikingly similar cadence and weight–they’re both very negative and assertive statements. Essentially, “I Don’t Like You Whatsoever” could be mistaken for a lackluster pre-production demo of “It Must Really Suck to Be FYS.” (Ethan Rose)

Hymn: The Servant Song
Copeland – You Have My Attention

This may be the most obscure pairing on this list, but bear with me here. One thing no one ever tells you is that if you’re a musically-inclined kid raised in the church, you’re going to have traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs stuck in your head for the rest of your life. It’s not that surprising when you think about it, since those songs end up being some of your earliest musical memories–so when I heard Copeland’s “You Have My Attention” for the first time, my ears immediately jumped. The song’s intro is eerily similar to the melody of the hymn “The Servant Song”, and although Copeland have never been considered a Christian band, they do have Christian members–so the hymn may very well have crept into Aaron Marsh’s subconscious when he sat down to pen “Attention”. Not to worry, though, the melody is only used once and I’m sure whoever wrote the Bible verse’s musical arrangement will be able to forgive them. (Eleanor Grace)

Jawbreaker – Boxcar
Green Day – She’s A Rebel

Punk is a simple beast. When most songs in the genre boil down to a three chord progression, it’s only natural there will be similarities. But play Green Day’s “She’s A Rebel” and you’ll hear more than just an echo of their punk predecessors Jawbreaker–the punchy riffs are an exact copy of “Boxcar”. The two tracks might have been released ten years apart, but if it weren’t for the different vocalists it might as well be the same song. And the similarities don’t stop there–both lyrics are about strong, badass women, with “Boxcar” being the nickname of a girl, with the lyric, “I like her mind / She hates the scene.” And of course, the famous “She’s a rebel / She’s a saint” chorus still resonates today. It’s possible Green Day were paying an homage to Jawbreaker, who were one of the great punk bands back in the day and had a huge impact on the scene. Jason White of Green Day has even formed a new band called California with Adam Pfahler of Jawbreaker, so there’s no question that the two bands ran in the same circles. It’s actually quite poetic that one band influenced the next generation, including a band that went on to influence a whole new generation. But no matter the similarities, you’ve still got two kickass songs about two kickass girls, and in this case two is definitely better than one. (Alex Bear)

Joan Jett – I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll
Wayland – Get A Little

There are so many legendary predecessors in the world of rock music, you’re bound to end up taking some pointers from them at some point or another. So is the case with Wayland’s “Get A Little.” The weekend soundtrack gets a little too close to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” to be a mere coincidence. Evidence of the inspiration is found best in the very first verse, when the toe-tapping rhythm and chord progression start to sound quite familiar. The process of creation here seemed to be giving the kickass trademark track a slower speed and less flair on its guitar, then throw in ace vocalist Mitch Arnold. The similarities are only evident in the verses, but each chorus finds itself proudly boasting another type of (more original) 80s flair. The real question is, how would Jett feel about the song that bears striking resemblance to her well-loved anthem? With rock ‘n’ roll embedded all the way to its core, well, she’d probably put another dime in the jukebox. (Emillie Marvel)

New Found Glory – It’s Not Your Fault
One Direction – Steal My Girl

Shots were fired on Twitter when Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory (among others) mentioned that the new One Direction song “Steal My Girl” featured a piano part that sounds an awful lot like NFG’s 2006 song “It’s Not Your Fault.” When I first saw the “news” break out (an overblown controversy that Gilbert recently spoke about on The Gunz Show), I was skeptical. However, a couple listens comparing the song and even I can’t deny how exactly alike this component is. The melody is a little slower and has a more natural piano sound on “It’s Not Your Fault,” but this overlap of the two songs shows that the melody moves precisely the same on each song. One Direction may have upped the speed and the octave, but their new song is too blatantly similar to New Found Glory’s to ignore. On top of that, both songs have an uncanny likeness to the piano intro in Journey’s “Faithfully.” At the end of the day, I guess I’m not surprised. One Direction aren’t impressive in any sense, so I guess they have to borrow a piano riff to have even a shred of talent. The band’s fans are always quick to defend them, though – maybe because they’re too young to know where the original came from. (Hannah Pierangelo)

Tenspoke Indies – Starlighter
Paramore – The Only Exception

Chances are you’ve never heard of Tenspoke Indies. And chances are you’ve never heard of their track “Starlighter” either. BUT, you’ve probably heard of a little band called Paramore and their popular 2009 hit “The Only Exception.” Well, Tenspoke Indies weren’t too happy about it. In fact, they even filed a lawsuit claiming Paramore ripped off their song, which was released in 2007. In the original suit, Tenspoke Indies demanded damages over “copyright infringement,” alleging that the track was similar in its “introductions, arrangements, chord progression, key, melody, lyrical theme, rhythm and tempo.” It’s immediately clear that both tracks have uncanny similarities, even though “Starlighter” opens with a guitar intro that Paramore’s version does not have. Despite this difference, the songs are entirely too close for comfort, even in the first 10 seconds. The first part of the song–key, chords, timing–are near exact. The only notable difference is vocal melodies. However, the plagiarism lawsuit was eventually dropped. So, did Paramore really lift the song from Tenspoke Indies? Chances are it’s coincidence, but you decide. (Alyson Stokes)

Yellowcard – Shrink The World
The Swellers – Should

When I first heard lead single “Should” from The Swellers’ last (and final) record The Light Under Closed Doors, I remember thinking it was one of the best songs I’d heard from them in a while. Eventually I realized it was because it reminded me of one of my favorite Yellowcard songs, “Shrink The World,” off of Paper Walls. Both songs start off immediately with the main hook – that happens to be built on the same chord progression – before transitioning into a driving rock song. Barely over two minutes long, “Should” is considerably shorter, speeding through each component of the song nonstop until the end. “Shrink The World” takes its time getting to the end with a guitar solo during the bridge and other musical embellishments that The Swellers overlook. Overall, I prefer “Shrink The World” because of its more polished complexity, but both songs are great to listen to and standouts in the bands’ respective discographies. (Catherine Yi)

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